Alex, J and I part ways from Martha and spend a few extra days in Ha Long Bay on Cat Ba Island. Everything we’d heard pointed to it being ridiculously difficult to get to and around on, but we coasted through a few miraculously-timed ferries and buses for a dollar or two each, found a guesthouse for 100,000 vnd ($5) split three ways, and had a glorious time.
Alex’s camera takes panoramas! C climbing in Butterfly Valley.
J learning to rappel.
J teaches some local boys how to rock climb. Water buffalo looks on.
Taking photographs while riding a motorbike is a dangerous practice not condoned by the author.
J making friends.
Alex makes friends! We walked through this village in which every single house had a full litter of young puppies and a mom. But no adults. . . Although in terms of free range meat, those were some happy, healthy-looking dogs, which is a lot more than I can say for many of the animals meant for consumption in the USA.
I am so prepared for our trek across Cat Ba.
Floating fishing village from the boat back around the island.
Floating house with satellite dish.
When we’ve had our fill of island life, we ferry back to the mainland, spend Saturday night in Hanoi, discovering the bar and nightlife scene (all the bars close early, except for the secret ones.) We then head to Mai Chau for a last stop, a town known for it’s bucolic rice paddies, it’s White Tai ethnic population, and it’s textiles.
Our home stay host weaving on the front terrace.
Our first night in Mai Chau, we attend a dance show with a troupe of locals dressed in traditional costumes. The entire rest of the audience is a tour group of drunken army retirees (notice them all taking pictures of us, the white folks in the back, rather than the dancers). Halfway through the show, they began jumping up to sing ballads during costume changes, then joining the dances they recognized, and the show disintegrated.
The night ends like this. A communal pot of rice wine with a circle of bamboo straws for all.
The army vets are not the only ones interested in us! All over Vietnam, tourists stop us and ask to take a photo. “Sure!” I say, “I’ll gladly take a photo of you!” Oh. . . You want a photo with me. . .
Mo Luong Cave. Used as a Viet Cong base during the French and American wars. Legend has it a dragon lives here, but we never found it, since we got escorted out for not having a guide with us.
Hiking is fun!
Water buffalo. After I took this photo, homeboy in the front decided we were threatening and stalked out of the water towards us menacingly. J ran away.
Oh there’s pollution here? Yup. The higher we hiked, the less we saw.
After a wonderful, relaxing time, we’re now in the Philippines for our last few weeks of South East Asia!
C and J